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Everything You Need to Know About Vegan Wine

English Wine 8th April 2021
people toasting with red wine glasses

Yes, you did read the title correctly… Vegan wine.

Many sceptics out there laugh to themselves when they see an orange juice label or a jar of peanut butter boasting vegan credentials, but they are only considering a small part of the story: the product itself.

Since wine is the product of grapes and yeast, some may assume that all wines would be appropriate for vegans, but this isn’t always the case.

Products such as orange juice or, in our case, vegan wine do not grow ready-made on trees pressed, fermented, bottled and marketed. If they did, what a world this would be.

When we talk about veganism and vegan products, we look holistically at the journey from ripened grape to the first satisfying sip.   

We all know fermented grapes don’t contain animal products, but many wine connoisseurs don’t realise that they might be used in the traditional fining process. 

But what exactly is the fining process?

What is the fining process in wine?

Nowadays, we consumers expect nothing but perfection in the products we purchase. Especially when it comes to what we eat and drink. Obviously, that includes wine as well.

But wine is the product of crushed grapes that we leave to ferment. So you can imagine that no matter how well the wine is sieved afterwards, there will most likely be some remnants left behind. These unwanted particles floating in the wine can affect its appearance, taste, and smell.

Through the years, winemakers developed a method to remove these unwanted particles and achieve that much sought-after clarity. That way, they can make their wines more appealing to the customers and extend their shelf life all at the same time. That method is called fining.

In winemaking, fining is the process where a substance called the fining agent is added to the wine to create a bond with the suspended unwanted particles, producing larger particles that can be removed from the wine more easily.

The particles that the fining process removes are natural byproducts of the winemaking process and are harmless to consume. Nevertheless, few people want to drink cloudy wine in a world where aesthetics are pretty much everything.

Is wine vegan?

It can be. But unfortunately, organic compounds used as fining agents are usually animal based, a definite cause of concern to vegans. This practice will traditionally involve the use of at least one animal product, such as gelatine, albumin (egg whites), casein (milk protein) and even isinglass (fish bladder).

Once the fining process has been completed, the fining agents used are removed from the wine. Nevertheless, due to the nature of wine, tiny traces of the animal product can be absorbed, thus making it non-vegan.

Nevertheless, there are alternative materials that can be used during fining and make the whole process vegan-friendly.  

What is vegan wine?

Vegan wine differs because it is sustainable and contains no animal products in any part of the process, including the fining. Vegan wines use eco-friendly, ethical alternatives to the traditional methods.

Some of the most popular alternatives are:

Bentonite

A type of clay formed from volcanic ash in seawater. It is highly effective at absorbing the small particles present in wine that helps improve its clarity and tone. 

Pea protein

A simple direct substitute for gelatine.

Activated charcoal

This ingredient has grown in popularity among both vegans and vegetarians in recent years and can be used to soak up unwanted colour, improving the colour and clarity without affecting the flavour.

Natural fining

Wine usually fines naturally after some time as, thanks to gravity, all suspended particles will eventually create sediment at the bottom. Moreover, there is always the risk of valuable aromatic molecules called phenols being removed along with the less desirable matter during fining. That’s the reason why several producers avoid fining their wines or delay it to preserve as much flavour and aroma from the phenols as possible before they are removed.

Traditional methods, which involve animal-based products, were only introduced to speed up this natural process. Leaving wine well alone is arguably the best choice for the ecologically enlightened customer but can prove more expensive for the winemakers themselves.

There is a growing awareness of how personal choices and lifestyles impact the environment and how changing them could lessen your carbon footprint. As a result, there has been a concerted move away from traditional animal products towards organic and vegan. Winemakers across the world are taking note and adopting a more natural approach.

The public has developed a voracious appetite lately for information and advice on how to do their part in contributing to slowing down and repairing damage caused by climate change. Research indicates a rising trend in the issues of ethical choices, from the clothes we wear, the products we use and at a basic level, the food and drinks we consume, including our wine.  

How do I know if my wine is vegan?

There is no current legislation for alcoholic products to include complete lists of the ingredients they use. However, some governments require winemakers to list any additives they add to their wine. Unfortunately, things like albumin and casein are classified as processing agents and not as additives, so they may not be listed on the label, making it challenging to figure out if a wine is vegan by looking at the label alone.  

But increasingly, winemakers promoting and selling vegan wines state specifically processes and substances used during fining. So when choosing your vegan wines, look for labelling that displays the product’s vegan credentials. And if in doubt, you can always look up the producer’s website, as they will probably make it clear whether their wines are vegan or not.

Alternatively, opt for naturally fined wines that have no intervention in any part of the natural fining process or buy from a source that only offers vegan wine. At Lyme Bay Winery, all of our still and sparkling fruit wines are vegan, so look no further for a sustainable and delicious alternative.

Conclusion

Good wine is central to celebrating a range of social gatherings, from an intimate dinner for two to extravagant seminal events in our lives. Vegan wines sacrifice none of the taste and offer all of the fun and flavour of traditionally produced wines.

Consider the bonus of knowing that no products derived from animals were used, from the picking of the grape to bottling and labelling, which can only add to your enjoyment of the final bouquet and ultimate satisfaction.

A toast to vegan wines…Cheers!!!

If you want to make sure your wine is 100% vegan at all times, why not try our range of still and sparkling fruit wines?

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